With such warm, calm waters, kayaking Miami is one of the best ways to enjoy the area. Paddle along the beaches, rivers, creeks or Biscayne Bay for an alternative viewpoint of The Magic City.
1. Oleta River State Park
In the middle of South Florida’s gridlock and high-rises lies this 1,043-acre gem. Although it’s just 10 minutes from glittering Aventura Mall, Oleta River State Park feels like an island escape.
You can rent kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards from the park’s concessionaire. They also offer daily eco tours, Friday night sunset tours and monthly full-moon tours.
The park has several kayak trails that weave through mangrove tunnels and estuaries. The lagoons are prime spots for viewing wading birds, juvenile fish and tiny crabs.
Paddling out of the mangrove-lined creeks to the high-rise-lined beach is like floating between different worlds. Be sure to paddle across Biscayne Bay to Sandspur Island. It’s about a 30-minute paddle to the 15-acre island, where you’ll find dense woods and plenty of wildlife. You’re also likely to see manatees and dolphins.
2. South Beach
If you’re staying in South Beach, be sure to check out South Beach Kayak, a family-run outfitter located in the stylish Sunset Harbour neighborhood. You can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards, then head out into Biscayne Bay and explore the Venetian Islands or Flagler Memorial Island.
They also offer both private and group guided tours. The guided excursion to Monument Island Beach is a favorite. It includes basic paddle instructions, a trip across the flats and time to explore a secluded, uninhabited beach.
3. Key Biscayne
Head to the Crandon Park Marina to rent kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddleboards. Then check out the many ecosystems of Key Biscayne, including seagrass beds, mangrove tunnels and coastal hardwood hammocks. You can also paddle your way towards the mainland for an epic view of the historic Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
If you’re interested in lessons, stop at Sailboards Miami just before you enter Key Biscayne. The offer everything from windsurfing lessons to sunset bioluminescent paddle adventures.
4. Matheson Hammock Park
Just south of Miami in Coral Gables lies the 630-acre Matheson Hammock Park. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from nearby Adventure Sports (which also offers lessons and guided tours), and explore the tranquil atoll beach and incredible sea life in Biscayne Bay.
5. Biscayne National Park
Seeing as it’s 95% water, Biscayne National Park is the perfect place for canoeing or kayaking Miami. Rentals are available at the park’s visitor center.
Check out the mangrove-fringed shoreline or any of the six kayak trails in the park. Jones Lagoon is a great area for spotting rays, jellyfish and wading birds. If you want to mix some snorkeling with your kayaking, head to Hurricane Creek. You can actually snorkel under the mangrove roots where you’ll see all kinds of marine life.
If you’re an experienced paddler, make the 7-mile journey across Biscayne Bay to Elliott Key, the northernmost of the Florida Keys. Boca Chita Key is about the same distance, and has a sweet lighthouse with awesome views of the Miami skyline.
6. Deering Estate
The Deering Estate was once the home of Charles Deering, former head of International Harvester. After his death, the state of Florida bought the 444-acre estate, which contains the largest tropical hardwood hammock in the continental US.
It’s a popular spot for eco-tourism, with the guided Canoe Tour at the top of the list of things to do. The tour takes you across Biscayne Bay to Chicken Key, a 7-acre mangrove island and bird rookery. It’s a great place to spot manatees, sea turtles and birds (obviously). The estate also offers moonlight canoe tours that include campfires and s’mores on Chicken Key.
If you prefer to explore on your own, kayak and paddleboard rentals are available from iPaddle Miami at Deering Point.
7. Everglades National Park
Although not actually in Miami, the spectacular Everglades are just an hour south. With nearly 100 miles of wild waterways, it’s known around the world as being an impressive location for kayaking or canoeing.
The Bear Lake Canoe Trail is perfect for beginning paddlers. It’s an out-and-back trail along a historic man-made waterway lined with mangroves.
Hell’s Bay Canoe Trail is famously known for being “hell to get into and hell to get out of.” There are numerous narrow channels as well as large lakes along the trail, which is about a four hour paddle one way. This trail is best for experienced paddlers.
You can find info about all of Everglades National Park’s kayak and canoe trails here.
All that paddling is a sure way to work up an appetite. Check out the best downtown Miami restaurants here and the best North Miami restaurants here.